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March 7, 2021

Obesity is Unhealthy for Cats

03.15.15 Obesity is unhealthy for cats. It can lead to serious medical issues and it decreases life expectancy. Before putting cats on diets or exercise programs, have them thoroughly examined by a veterinarian.

Help keep your cats svelte by encouraging them to work a little for their meals. Instead of food bowls, place small portions of food and treats on cat trees, shelves, in puzzle feeders and boxes. Do treat rolls. Roll cat food and treats on the floor for them to chase. If you have a stairwell, roll the food down the stairs. Play also helps burn calories. Use a pole toy to encourage cats to move and climb by pulling it on cat trees, shelves and sofas. Always be mindful of your cat’s age and physical conditioning. A little movement for an elderly or unhealthy cat can go a long way.

For lively discussions about cat behavior, please check out The Cat Coach on Facebook

Obesity is unhealthy for cats.

Obesity is unhealthy for cats. by Fotolia.

Creative Meal Times for Cats: Part I

Some cats go into high gear as soon as they spot food. Meal times become feeding frenzies—a race starting the moment the food bowl hits the floor. They are voracious around food—inhaling their meal the instant it looms into view. Other household residents need to be vigilant. No meal is safe. The probability of eating a leisurely meal when living with a ravenous eater plummets to nil.

Motivations for this frustrating behavior vary. Felines who had rough beginnings—former strays who did not know when they’d eat again often exhibit this annoying behavior. Boredom is also a factor. Eating helps pass the time when there is not enough mental or physical stimulation. And let’s not forget the foodies. They simply love eating. Whatever the motivations, the results are the same. Cats who eat too much too fast often vomit undigested food. Eating too quickly can also cause cats to gag. Another consequence of over-indulgence is obesity.

The Mandatory vet check

Before approaching this as a behavior issue, cats with eating disorders need to be examined by their veterinarians. Medical issues, including parasites, can cause them to eat like there is no tomorrow.

Will work for food

Cats are predators—our household kitties’ feral cousins hunt for a living. Meals are not served in bowls or placed on platters. Neither do they graze whenever the mood for a nosh hits them. Hunting is hard work and it is mentally and physically stimulating. Keep in mind that hunting for a living is dangerous and food can be scarce. When ferals and other wild cats are not successful hunters, they do not survive.

Although felines are safer and live longer and healthier lives indoors, they still have instinctual hunting behaviors. Meal times for indoor cats can become almost as stimulating as hunting—without the outdoor dangers.

Creative feeding

Maulee retrieving treats from the Nina Ottosson Dog Spinny

Meals become exciting by changing how cats access their food. Standard food bowls are pretty boring and don’t encourage working for food. Exciting feeding systems include muffin tins, puzzle boxes and treat balls. It takes more effort to retrieve food from them. An added benefit is that cats are less likely to inhale their food and then immediately vomit because it slows down the food intake. Favorite puzzle toys include the Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado, Dog Brick and the Dog Spinny . Although these were originally designed for dogs, they are perfect for cats. Food and treats are placed in the different compartments and the kitties have to work for their food—spinning bones or sliding covers off compartments. The Stimulo Cat Feeding Station is an alternative feeding system for canned food. It comes equipped with cups of different heights.

Switching between food delivery systems also adds interest and spices up meals. It is important to monitor the use of creative feeding solutions—cats should be slightly challenged, not frustrated by them.

Part II of Creative Meal Times for Cats will be published next week. It will focus on food games and small meals.

More help

For further help with cat behavior challenges, contact Marilyn to discuss scheduling a consultation.

Fat Cats

Many of the cats that I see are over indulging in the culinary delights that are being offered to them. Lately, it seems that the majority of cats that I visit are more then pleasingly plump. Unfortunately, obesity is a health concern in cats. The Winn Foundation has a very good article on obesity in cats and why obesity puts cats at risk for diabetes, hepatic lipidosis as well as other diseases. One alarming fact in this article is that somewhere between 40-50% of household cats suffer from obesity.

Why do we see more cats now suffering from obesity? What can be done about it? There are few reasons for this obesity trend that we are seeing in our cats. I will focus on one of the causes and a few possible solutions.

Thankfully, more people now keep their cats in 24/7 (a good thing), but they are failing to provide them adequate exercise and environmental enrichment. This is relatively easy to remedy through a few environmental additions and activities. Before doing any of these, please check with your veterinarian. Your vet may also prescribe a special diet for your porky kitty.

§        Treat balls. Many people free feed their cats, leaving bowls of food out all of the time for the cats. Free feeding and dry food can contribute to a cat’s over-weight challenges. If you must free feed, instead of leaving the food out in bowls, encourage your cat to work for his food. Put his food in treat balls. Treat balls are hard hollow balls with holes in them. You fill them either with dry food or treats. The cat has to work for his food, rolling the treat ball around in order to have access to the food. My favorite treat balls are Play-N-Treat and the Talk to me Treat balls.

§        Tall cat trees. Give your feline friend tall cat trees to climb. They should be at least 6 feet tall and have lots of wide shelves. Make sure the trees are stable and strong. Cats like cat trees that are placed next to secure windows. Putting bird feeders out in the spring or summer will provide endless hours of entertainment.

§        Treasure hunts. Use a small portion of your cat’s regular food and conduct treasure hunts. Hide the food up in the cat trees or on window perches or up on cabinets. The goal is for the cat to work for his food instead of grazing for food in a bowl.

§        Play time. Schedule regular play times with your cats. Use fishing pole toys and other toys that will encourage your cat to move around. Don’t overdo the exercise, gradually increase the time you play with your cat, based on your cat’s health and abilities. You do not want to over extend or compromise the health of the cat. Make sure to talk to your vet about the limits.

§        Interactive toys. TurboScratchers and puzzle boxes are a couple of fun interactive toys that can keep cats occupied for hours. TurboScratchers are round flat objects with a round cardboard scratcher in the middle, surrounded by a channel. In the channel there is a ping pong ball. You can add your cat’s favorite toys in the channel, or the channel can be another place for the treasure hunts. Puzzle boxes are boxes with lots of holes in them. There are already a few toys in the boxes and you can add your cat’s favorites. Additionally,  like the TurboScratcher, puzzle boxes can be used for treasure hunts.

§        Clicker training is always a great tool for encouraging your cat to move around and do various behaviors.

These are just a few suggestions on how to help your cat-friend slim down a little. It’s always a good idea to check with your veterinarian, you want to make sure that whatever weight loss or exercise plan you put your kitty on is safe and healthy.

If you have other ideas for helping cats slim down, please add them in the comments. I would love to see a discussion about this.